Miami Heat: History Set To Repeat Itself As Riley Gears For Return

David WeissCorrespondent IIINovember 23, 2010

Pat Riley knows what he has to do.
Pat Riley knows what he has to do.Doug Benc/Getty Images

Michael Beasley, aka Jamal Mashburn 2.0 for Heat historians, is smiling right now.

Not because he has been on a tear of late and exacting revenge on critics both in and outside the league since he arrived in Minnesota.

Rather it's because the person that had a hand in the suicidal path his career was headed towards in Miami is suffering a similar fate as he. Erik Spoelstra is slowly realizing what it's like to be in the shadows of greatness.

Stan Van Gundy experienced it. Michael Beasley experienced it (behind Dwyane Wade).

Now it's Spoelstra's turn.

His suits may be fancy, and his hair may be shiny, but Erik Spoelstra is no Pat Riley.

Consider that Miami's season started off awkwardly and has moved noticeably backwards since. In the first game of the season, Miami looked disjointed against the Celtics and visibly deficient at the one and five position, which the Celtics exploited to their advantage. While Miami lost the game as well as their air of invincibility, the team was able to hang their hat on how well they played defense.

Unfortunately, their shutdown defense disappeared. Then began the inconsistency.

Miami was blowing out bad teams, while narrowly losing to good teams again and again.

At this point, the only teams Miami has beaten that are above .500 teams are Phoenix and Orlando.

Meanwhile, Miami is currently trying to reel from a blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers at home, their second straight loss. The loss prior came at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Other noticeable losses were against the Jazz, whom Miami was up by over 20 points against before losing at home, and the Celtics, in a game that mirrored the first of the season considering Miami's margin of deficit at halftime, as well as the impression that Miami posed no real threat of winning.

Now, with the threat of mediocrity and the reality that very little hint of progress has been shown by this team, critics are beginning to accept this period not as the obligatory learning curve for Heat players, but as a grace period for Spoelstra to keep his job.

No, the change at the sidelines won't come as soon as it should. Spoelstra has certainly earned that expansive margain of error from Pat Riley.

But it will happen inevitably. Because what was once considered arguably the largest coup in a free agency period, not just in the NBA, but all of sports, has been nothing short of contrary thus far.

Mike Miller's anticipated arrival sometime next month or in January has been so galvanizingly talked about, one would assume he was the Messiah.

LeBron suggested that the team looks as though it is having no fun, and that is what needs to be turned around.

As someone that has followed this team closely, I cannot help but argue that the true plague of this team is the internal power struggle between Wade and LeBron.

Yes, they may share similar strengths, but it didn't make them any less a force during the olympics or the several all-star games they have played alongside one another.

Meanwhile, Spoelstra has let LeBron completely dominate the ball and improvise plays on recurring basis. The result has been that a team constructed out of the talents of three superstars generally plays only to the strengths of one.

This Heat team has no identity, no cohesion, and no voice.

The only person that can salvage what is quickly turning into a nightmare for everyone involved in the South Beach experiment is Pat Riley.

He knows it too. 

Maybe it will take a few more shameful losses. Maybe it will take the return of Mike Miller and/or Udonis Haslem so that the team is at full strength and Erik Spoelstra can use his most legitimate lifeline.

But it will happen.

By season's end, Riley will maintain control of the Heat's sideline.

And only then will this Heat team legitimately compete for a championship.

For now, it's only a matter of time.